Twenty two years ago a small grey cat was born in Rhode Island. Her owners didn't want her; a neighborhood tom had snuck over the fence and done unspeakable things to their prize-winning Himalayan. They gave her to a college girl, who quickly discovered she was not ready for kittenhood. Overwhelmed, she threatened to put her outside to fend for herself.
My then-future wife has never been able to abide the suffering of any animal. She rescued the kitten from almost certain death, taking it in at the risk of angering her landlord. Shelby won my heart simply by being a grey tiger kitten; I won hers by ignoring her. Curiosity may not really kill cats, but it sure drives them nuts. (The landlord was won over with money. Not really a cat person I guess.)
I would love to say Shelby was a special cat. In our hearts she certainly was and remains. In reality she was probably pretty average. An amazing thing happened, though. She had an incredible ability to win people's hearts. Soon my parents adopted a cat, then my sister. Over the intervening years we have had 8 more cats, my sister 4, and my parents 5. All have been rescued in some form or other. Dad has even adopted his own small thriving feral colony.
Shelby was our matriarch. She left us in 2006 after a long yet too short life. The torch was passed to Muffy, my parents' first.
Muffy came to the family from the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society in December of 1998. She was a stray and a street tough. The shelter guessed she was 3 years old; the vet estimated closer to 5. It took a long time for her to accept affection, but eventually she became the tiger-striped head of her own five-cat colony. She ruled with an iron paw, earning the nickname Tuffy Muffy.
Fifteen years have come and gone, and Muffy has been the Energizer kitty. She has weathered health scares; she's slowed and mellowed with age; recently she's spent most of her time in a warm spot in the kitchen.
And I've watched her age, lately with a heavy heart. We knew this day was coming. This afternoon I scritched her one last time and got to wish her a safe journey. Tomorrow she goes over the Rainbow Bridge.
Farewell, Muff. It's always too soon, yet it's time. Shel, Chang, Jas, Rockey, and Millie will be waiting to greet you.